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Graduating in four years? No problem (with a little work)!

College students studying in the libraryRyan G. Forsythe, Ed.D is the Vice President for Enrollment Management at Worcester State University.

“I'm going to college to get a four-year degree, so it should take four years.” Sounds easy, right?  Not always. Some students end up staying in school for five or six years, and paying much more than they intended to earn their degree. How should college students protect themselves from staying in college for too long…or paying too much?! Here are some easy tips to follow.

The Degree Plan

Almost every college or university offers four-year degree plans to students as they arrive on campus. This is like Google Maps for college. These plans suggest actions such as “take English your first semester” and “take a math class in the first two years.” The plans guide you through the forty-ish classes you will need to complete a degree. You might complete the classes in a slightly different order, and you might still have some choices to make, but these four-year degree plans guide you so you don’t take a wrong turn on the road to finishing college.

Academic Advisors

No matter where you choose to go to school, you will likely have an academic advisor. These individuals are the Order of Merlin, first-class, of academic advising! Sometimes, these wonderful folks are the same faculty who teach your classes, and other times, you might have an advisor from the advising or student success office. Advisors have the keys to the knowledge you need to stay on track and graduate in four years. Get in touch with them early on, and take advantage of their knowledge and guidance.

Transferring Credit

Colleges often accept credit from other colleges. It’s like going to a restaurant and bringing your own appetizer. The more credits you bring to your college of choice, the fewer you will need to take. In Massachusetts, the new Commonwealth Commitment brings this to a whole new level. The “ComCom” (for short) provides an affordable path to a four-year degree that includes initial enrollment at a community college, continued enrollment at a state university, guaranteed transfer of credit, and even tuition and fee rebates for students who are successful! When transferring credit, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Doing Well

Many students go to college thinking they will be academically successful (good grades, attending class, completing assignments, etc.). And many students ARE successful. But too many students let their grades slip or they skip a class here and there. This is the ultimate self-inflicted wound. Poor grades and excessive course withdrawals can hurt you academically…and financially. A student that does not make satisfactory academic progress toward the completion of her degree (not earning a high enough GPA or enough credits per semester) can become ineligible for financial aid. Ouch! Losing out on financial aid could force a student to take a break from school to earn money or leave school completely, making it even more difficult to earn that degree in four years.

There are so many ways students can protect themselves from extra time or extra costs, while attending school. The universities and colleges want you to graduate…your family wants you to graduate…and you want to graduate. With a little work, it’s no problem!

Ryan ForsytheRyan G. Forsythe, Ed.D. is the Vice President for Enrollment Management at Worcester State University. Ryan attended Westfield State College, UMASS Amherst, and Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, where he earned his doctorate in education. Ryan has worked in enrollment management for over 15 years, in admissions and financial aid at public institutions, private institutions, universities, a community college, Massachusetts schools, and one institution in Tennessee. Ryan now oversees the WSU Division of Enrollment Management, which includes the Offices of Admissions, Financial Aid, Marketing, Retention, and the Registrar.






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